Steuben Monument, Lafayette Square




The statue of Steuben is the work of the German-born artist Albert Jaegers, who was born on March 28, 1868 in Elberfeld, since 1929 a section of the city of Wuppertal (North Rhine-Westphalia). Jaegers emigrated to the United States as a child and grew up in the heavily German-American city of Cincinnati, where he found work in an architect's office and became a self-taught artist. His younger sister, Augustine Jaegers, was also a prominent sculptor. In 1889, he moved to New York. In 1912, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Jaegers was clearly a prominent and successful artist. In the obituary published after the artist's death on July 22, 1925, the New York Times noted that "Mr. Jaegers won various competitions by decision of the National Sculpture Society and his rise to prominence became so rapid that he was soon executing many works for the United States Government, among these were statuary for the Buffalo and St. Louis Expositions, the new Custom House in New York City and the Baron von Steuben statue for Washington, D.C." Prior to the unveiling of the Steuben Monument's replica in Potsdam, Kaiser Wilhelm II awarded Jaegers the fourth-class Order of the Red Eagle.

In addition to the Steuben statue, Jaegers is known for the monument to Francis Daniel Pastorius, located in Vernon Park in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. The Pastorius Monument commemorates the founding of Germantown in 1683 and was funded jointly by the US Congress and the German-American Alliance; its cornerstone was laid in 1908 on the 225th anniversary of the founding. Jaegers designed the monument in 1912 and it was completed by 1917, but American entry into World War I in that year led to the finished monument being encased in a wooden box; it was finally dedicated in November, 1920.

Jaegers sculpted another work with a similar fate: his cornice sculpture entitled "Germany," created in 1907 for the United States Customs House in New York as one of twelve sculptures symbolizing commercial and seafaring powers of the ancient and modern worlds, was altered and renamed "Belgium" in 1918. According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture, the piece "was orginally a woman leaning on an antique shield inscribed with the word 'Kiel' which was the insignia of Kaiser Wilhelm."

The New York Times recounted:

Shortly after America's entrance into the World War, [Jaegers] declined a request coming from [Treasury] Secretary McAdoo to alter his statue representing Germany above the main cornice of the New York Custom House, to become a symbol for America's ally, Belgium. Although his refusal at the time was attributed to his having previously been decorated by the German Kaiser, Mr. Jaegers explained his attitude before the National Sculpture Society by declaring that it was manifestly impossible to change the significance of the existing statue by "a little camouflage with a relabel." He also said that the proposed expedient was indeed "a somewhat dubious honor for plucky little Belgium."